Maryland health department shares mental health resources for front-line workers

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The Behavioral Health Administration has launched an interactive map featuring behavioral health providers in Maryland who offer telehealth services. Screengrab from Behavioral Health Administration website.

The Maryland Department of Health is promoting various mental health resources for front-line workers, including regular check-in calls for veterans and a map of medical providers offering telehealth services.

The health department shared the resources to raise awareness about “much needed mental health support,” particularly for health care professionals and other workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, department officials said in a news release.

“As important as our physical health and wellness is right now, we must also emphasize mental health,” Maryland Department of Health Secretary Robert R. Neall said in a statement. “From people who are cut off from loved ones or living in difficult situations, to those working on the frontlines in stores or in healthcare settings, support is available to those who need it.”

Between February and March, Maryland saw a nearly 45 percent increase in the number of calls to the state’s helpline for mental health and substance use, according to the release.

The number of reported cases of post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, substance use, suicidal thoughts and attempts, domestic violence and child abuse tend to increase after disaster situations, Dr. Aliya Jones, deputy secretary of the agency’s Behavioral Health Administration, said in a statement.

But by proactively addressing individuals’ mental health concerns before they reach a crisis level, the state can reduce the prevalence of mental health emergencies, Jones said.

The Behavioral Health Administration has created a resource guide and an interactive map that shows more than 1,000 Maryland behavioral health providers who are offering telehealth services.

There are more than 150 telehealth providers in Baltimore City. Providers can request to be added to the map after the Behavioral Health Administration and local health partners verify their services.

The Hogan administration last month also launched a program called Operation Roll Call, which will allow veterans to receive regular check-in calls and be connected with mental health support. If the veteran cannot be reached, staff will call that individual’s emergency contact.

Veterans can sign up for a check-in by calling the Maryland Commitment to Veterans hotline at 1 (877) 770-4801.

This program will remain in place after the pandemic calms, the news release said.

The Behavioral Health Administration is also planning to provide mental health support to workers at nursing homes and other long-term care facilities impacted by COVID-19, according to the news release.

“Nursing home staff are facing especially difficult situations, given the impact of COVID-19 on the elderly and physically vulnerable. They often work for years with residents who become like family,” Jones said. “Many of these frontline healthcare workers need mental health support now, and we cannot ask them to wait in line to get help.”

People can volunteer to assist with this initiative by emailing [email protected].

Last month, Baltimore City Councilmembers Zeke Cohen and Kristerfer Burnett worked with several community organizations to launch a network of volunteers providing mental health support to seniors, immunocompromised residents and other vulnerable people. The volunteers check in with those individuals online or by phone and connect them with mental health resources and providers as necessary.

More information about the state’s behavioral health response to COVID-19 can be found on the Behavioral Health Administration’s website.

Marcus Dieterle

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